In Scientology, the concept of the thetan (/ˈθeɪtən/) is similar
to the concept of self, or the spirit or soul as found in several
other belief systems. The term is derived from the Greek letter Θ,
theta, which in
Scientology beliefs represents "the source of life, or
life itself." In
Scientology it is believed that it is the thetan,
not the central nervous system, which commands the body through
Thetans have been described in the Church of
Scientology in a number
A "thetan is an immortal spiritual being; the human soul."
"The being who is the individual and who handles and lives in the
"A thetan is not a thing, a thetan is the creator of things."
A thetan is "the person himself—not his body or his name, the
physical universe, his mind, or anything else; that which is aware of
being aware; the identity which is the individual. The thetan is most
familiar to one and all as you."
According to the Church of Scientology, the concept for the thetan was
first discovered in the early 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, drawing on
Dianetics practitioners of past-life experiences. Although
the term is comparable to a soul, a thetan can be connected to
multiple people over time. An important goal in
Scientology is to
become one with the thetan as an Operating Thetan.
2 Thetans and death
3 Operating Thetan
5 Body thetan
7 External links
The term and concept were defined by
Scientology founder L. Ron
Hubbard, who adopted the Greek letter theta (Θ) to represent "the
source of life and life itself". Hubbard first introduced his ideas
of "theta-beings" in a lecture series of March 1952. He attributed
the coining of the word to his wife Mary Sue. As an essential point
Scientology doctrine, a person's identity and self-awareness come
entirely from a "thetan". It is redundant to refer to "a person's
thetan," because the person does not exist independently.
Hubbard once defined a thetan as: "... having no mass, no
wave-length, no energy, no measurable qualities and no time or
location in space except by consideration or postulate. The spirit is
not a thing. It is the creator of things." In a lecture series
later published as a book ("The Phoenix Lectures"), he jokingly
pointed to a study that implied that a "thetan" manifests a small but
measurable amount of mass:
"From some experiments conducted about fifteen or twenty years ago—a
thetan weighed about 1.5 ounces [45 grams]! Who made these
experiments? Well, a doctor made these experiments. He weighed people
before and after death, retaining any mass. He weighed the person, bed
and all, and he found that the weight dropped at the moment of death
about 1.5 ounces [45 grams] and some of them 2 ounces
[60 grams]. (Those were super thetans!)"
Although Hubbard did not name the doctor concerned, there was indeed
such an attempt, by Duncan MacDougall, to measure the weight of dying
patients to determine the weight of the soul, although MacDougall's
experiments took place about fifty years before Hubbard's lectures,
not fifteen or twenty, and are generally not regarded as having any
According to Hubbard's son
Ronald DeWolf (born
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard Jr.),
his father stated that thetans are immortal and perpetual, having
willed themselves into existence at some point several trillion
years ago. After they originated, thetans generated "points to
view" or "dimension points", causing space to come into existence.
They agreed that other thetans' dimension points existed, thus
bringing into existence the entire universe. All matter, energy,
space, and time exists solely because thetans agree that it exists.
In the primordial past, according to Scientologist teachings, thetans
brought the material universe into being largely for their own
pleasure.." The universe is thought to have no independent
reality, but to derive its apparent reality from the fact that most
thetans agree it exists. Scientologists believe that thetans fell
from grace when they began to identify with their creation, rather
than their original state of spiritual purity. Eventually, they
lost their memory of their true nature, along with the associated
spiritual and creative powers. As a result, thetans came to think of
themselves as nothing but embodied beings.
Thetans are believed to be reborn time and time again in new bodies
through a process called "assumption" which is analogous to
reincarnation. Dell deChant and
Danny Jorgensen liken Scientology
to Hinduism, in that both ascribe a causal relationship between the
experiences of earlier incarnations and one's present life. With
each rebirth, the effects of the "MEST" universe (MEST here stands for
matter, energy, space, and time) on the thetan are believed to become
Jon Atack, whose book
A Piece of Blue Sky
A Piece of Blue Sky details how he reached
Operating Thetan level V before leaving Scientology, describes
Hubbard's doctrines about thetans: "Thetans are all-knowing beings,
and became bored because there were no surprises. Hubbard asserted
that the single most important desire in all beings is to have a
'game'. To have a 'game' it was necessary to 'not know' certain
things, so certain perceptions were negated ('not-is-ed')." Since
thetans knew everything, this required them to abandon or suppress
perceptions and knowledge. Over time, the loss of perception
accumulated and certain thetans began to cause harm to others. MEST
(physical) beings also sought to "trap" thetans in order to control
them. Thetans came to learn contrition, punishing themselves for their
own "harmful" acts.
According to Hubbard, an essential part of the thetans' game was the
"conquest" of matter, energy, space, and time by the life force,
theta. This has produced multiple universes which have ended and begun
in succession, each new one being more solid and entrapping than the
last. The thetans have by now become so enmeshed in the physical
universe that many have identified themselves totally with it,
forgetting their quadrillions of years of existence and their
original godly powers.
According to Scientology, thetan powers are said to remain potent and
restorable. One of the Church of Scientology's stated goals is "the
rehabilitation of the human spirit", by which it means the restoration
of the thetan's original abilities. Hubbard claims that thetans are
able to change reality through "postulates"—decisions made by the
individual about the nature of the reality around them. Some thetans
are said to have (mis)used this ability to "implant" others with
hypnotic suggestions, forcing other thetans to "cluster" around bodies
(hence body thetans). This sort of directed control is referred to as
Scientology seeks to undo it and return the
thetan to "self-determinism", where he can control himself and his
environment. The eventual goal is to achieve "pan-determinism", where
he acts for the good of all.
The Scientological notion of the thetan differs from other religions,
such as Judaism and Christianity, in three significant ways. While
other belief systems “fuse the concept of the body and soul”, the
thetan is “separate and independent.” Also unlike the
Judeo-Christian tradition, Scientologists believe that the thetan has
“lived through many, perhaps thousands of lifetimes.” Third,
different from the Christian notion of original sin, Scientology
believes that the thetan is basically good, but “has lost touch with
its true nature.”
Religious scholar Richard Holloway writes that thetans were not
created, but they created themselves, adopting and creating the human
body as a vehicle or existence.
Thetans and death
Non-Scientologists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos described in a 1990
article in the LA Times how Scientologists believe that when a person
Scientology terms, when a thetan abandons its physical
body—they go to a "landing station" on the planet Venus, where the
thetan is re-implanted and told lies about its past life and its next
life. The Venusians take the thetan, "capsule" it, and send it back to
Earth to be thrown into the ocean off the coast of California. They
quote Hubbard as saying, "If you can get out of that, and through
that, and wander around through the cities and find some girl who
looks like she is going to get married or have a baby or something
like that, you're all set. And if you can find the maternity ward to a
hospital or something, you're OK. And you just eventually just pick up
While Hubbard’s discovery of the thetan led to the development of an
elaborate cosmology, the doctrinal structure he created is based on
the following propositions: “Man is an immortal spiritual being. His
experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are
unlimited, even if not presently realized.”
Main article: Operating Thetan
Scientology doctrine, a thetan exists whether operating a
human body or not.
Scientology advertises itself as being able to
"rehabilitate" the thetan of a practitioner to a state where the
individual can operate with or without a "flesh body". The term
"operating thetan" would then apply as it does when an individual is
operating a body. The
Operating Thetan (OT) levels are the upper level
courses in Scientology.
The Church defines "Operating Thetan" as "knowing and willing cause
over life, thought, and matter, energy, space and time (MEST)."
The Church of
Scientology states as a point of doctrine that an
individual exists with or without a body.
Even beyond the
Operating Thetan levels comes the "Cleared Theta
Clear", a godlike state which Hubbard describes this way:
"A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a
thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a
distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create
his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create
illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe
objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of
bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends
interested in existence".
Main article: Body thetan
A body thetan is a disincarnate thetan who is "stuck" in, on or near a
human body, and all human bodies are said to be infested by these
disembodied thetans, or clusters of them. This information is not
revealed until a Scientologist reaches Section III of the Operating
Thetan levels (commonly referred to as "OT III"). Body thetans were
said by Hubbard to be a result of a prehistoric "Incident" involving
^ a b c d e Hubbard (June 1975).
Dictionary. Bridge Publications. p. 432.
^ "Nerve Assist – Assists for Illnesses and Injuries, How can
Scientology help me". Scientologyhandbook.org. 2011-02-15. Retrieved
^ Official Glossary of
Dianetics Terms Archived
November 12, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Schaefer, Richard T.; Zellner, William W. (2010). Extraordinary
Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles. Macmillan.
^ Science of Survival,
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard pg.3 pub. Publications
Organization ISBN 0-88404-001-1
^ Scientology: Milestone One,
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard pub. Golden Era
Productions. Audio lectures with transcripts
^ Hubbard, The Auditor 21, p.1
^ What is Scientology
^ Creed of the Church of Scientology
^ Hubbard, The Phoenix Lectures, p. 147. Bridge Publications, 1982
^ Mikkelson, Barbara; Mikkelson, David P. (2003-10-27). "
Snopes. Retrieved 2007-02-17. MacDougall's ... methodology ... was
suspect, [his] sample size far too small, and [his] ability to measure
changes in weight imprecise. For this reason, credence should not be
given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that
they measured the weight of the soul ... His postulations on this
topic are a curiosity, but nothing more.
^ Billion in Long Scale
^ "PBS Late Night interview with Ron DeWolf". members.cox.net.
^ Hopkins, Joseph M., Is
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard Dead?, Christianity Today, 18
February 1983, p 31
^ a b c d e Neusner, Jacob (2003). World Religions in America.
Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 221–236.
^ a b Chryssides, George D. (1999). Exploring New Religions. Continuum
International Publishing Group. p. 283.
^ Melton 2000, p. 32
^ a b Atack, Jon (1990). A Piece of Blue Sky. New York, NY: Carol
Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8184-0499-X.
^ Thousands of billions in Long Scale
^ Cowan, Douglas E.; Bromley, David G. (2015). Cults and New
Religions: A Brief History, Wiley Blackwell Brief Histories of
Religion. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 9781118722107. Retrieved
^ Holloway, Richard (September 20, 2016). A Little History of
Religion. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300208832.
^ Sappell, Joel; Welkos, Robert W. (1990-06-24). "Defining the
Theology". Los Angeles Times. p. A36:1. Retrieved
Scientology Story – Part 1B: Defining the Theology".
^ Cempa, Joe; "Petrolia's New Neighbors", North Coast Journal, June
^ Gallagher, Eugene V. (2004). The New Religious Movements Experience
in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. access-date= requires
^ L. Ron Hubbard's Congress Lectures: Glossary, "OT", Bridge
^ Church of Scientology,
Scientology Beliefs, accessed 03/28/06
Scientology 8-8008, pg 114 (1st ed), pg. 151 (1990 ed.)
Look up thetan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Scientology Principles: The
Thetan from the Church of
Doctrine of Exchange
Emotional tone scale
Jesus in Scientology
History of Dianetics
Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act
Scientology editing on
Death of Lisa McPherson
Death of Elli Perkins
Death of Kaja Ballo
The Fishman Affidavit
List of Guardian's Office operations
Operation Snow White
Scientology and Me
Scientology as a business
The Secrets of Scientology
Tax status in the US
"The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power"
"We Stand Tall"
Arenz, Röder and Dagmar v. Germany
Scientology of California v. Armstrong
Scientology International v. Fishman and Geertz
Scientology International v.
Time Warner, Inc., et al.
Scientology Moscow v. Russia
Scientology v. Sweden
Hernandez v. Commissioner
Hill v. Church of
Scientology of Toronto
Religious Technology Center
Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services,
R. v. Church of
Scientology of Toronto
United States v. Hubbard
X. and Church of
Scientology v. Sweden
Church of Scientology
Church of Spiritual Technology
Hubbard Association of Scientologists International
International Association of Scientologists
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard House
Religious Technology Center
Scientology Missions International
Status by country
L. Ron Hubbard
Mary Sue Hubbard
Ali's Smile: Naked Scientology
Being Tom Cruise
Scientology and the Aftermath
"A Token of My Extreme"
A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's
Association for Better Living and Education
List of members
Citizens Commission on Human Rights
Concerned Businessmen's Association of America
Cult Awareness Network
Moxon & Kobrin
New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project
Oxford Capacity Analysis
Safe Environment Fund
Second Chance Program
The Way to Happiness
World Institute of
Youth for Human Rights International